One of the exercises in our book involves accessing Boulder County Colorado’s GIS site to make decisions about flood hazards. We chose Boulder County for this activity in large part because their data covers a wide variety of themes, is quite detailed, and is easy to download and use. Recently, Boulder County went even further, with the launch of their new geospatial open data platform. This development follows other essays we have written about in this blog about open data, such as the ENERGIC OD, ArcGIS Open Data, EPA flood risk, Australian national map initiative, and open data institute nodes. Other open data nodes are linked to a live web map on the ArcGIS Open Data site.
Accessible here, Boulder County’s open data platform expands the usability of the data, such as providing previews of the data in mapped form and in tabular form. The new platform allows for additional data themes to be accessed; such as the lakes and reservoirs, 2013 flood channel, floodplain, and streams and ditches, all accessible as a result from a search on “hydrography” below. Subsets of large data sets can also be accessed. In addition, the services for each data set are now provided, such as in GeoJSON and GeoService formats, which allows for the data to be streamed directly to such portals such as ArcGIS Online, and thus avoid downloading the data sets altogether.
Why did the county do this? Boulder County says they are “committed to ensuring that geospatial data is as open, discoverable and usable as possible in order to promote community engagement, stimulate innovation and increase productivity.” The county is providing an incredibly useful service to the community through their newest innovative efforts, and I congratulate them. I also hope that more government agencies follow their lead.
The DataPortals.org site, hosted by the Open Knowledge International organisation in conjunction with the LOD2 project, provides a comprehensive repository of over 500 open data portals. The registered portals, published by local, regional and national governments, international organisations and a number of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), provide access to a variety of spatial data sources including administrative boundaries, land use, economic activity and environmental indicators.
All data sets referenced by the DataPortals catalogue, including those that form part of a database collection, are published under the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication & Licence. The data sets are available to download in a variety of formats including .xls, JSON/GEOJSON and shapefile.
Did you know that the US Congress is increasing its use of web mapping tools in GIS? In one of these map collections from the US Congress, you can discover organizations who host maps and data. The themes of these maps include business locations, wildfires, hurricanes and current weather, public transportation, education, and many others. For education, these maps could be useful for discussions in political science, geography, biology, business, and in other disciplines, as well as access to data for courses that use GIS. To find out why the US Congress finds value in web mapping and GIS, read the excellent article that my colleague Lauren Lipovic recently wrote about how GIS is increasingly being used to inform and disseminate public policy. Also, see the government policy page from Esri for more case studies, maps, and data.
The Mapping for Congress Featured Set contains some maps on the above themes; the most compelling one in my opinion is the set for Senator Risch from Idaho, on wildland fire potential, brownfields development success stories, and other themes of interest to citizens of that state and to those living elsewhere. Another notable example from the Featured Set collection is this new map of Virginia state parks.
The Federal Agency Map Collection assembled by my colleague provides another excellent way of accessing more of these maps and data sets. This collection includes the Mapping for Congress Expanded Gallery. While some of the maps are applications that do not allow for streaming or downloading the data, GIS users with a bit of digging will find plenty of layers that they can use for analysis. And equally importantly, these data sets represent a trend that we noted in our book–with increasing use of web mapping tools such as Esri story maps and the ability to assemble these map galleries, decision makers are increasing their use of GIS and spatial analysis in their decision making, which is good news for all of us.